Holiday parades, ceremonies in Butler County recognize those who served
The spirit of Memorial Day can be obscured by the emphasis on a long weekend, the traditional start of summer and buying things on sale, said Shawnee Young, administrative assistant at Butler County Veterans Services.
“We work hard to try to make people remember what Memorial Day is about. It's not just about buying a mattress on sale,” she said.
County residents observe the holiday in ways quiet and loud, private and public through parades and quiet gestures of respect and thanks.
Anthony King and six other Junior ROTC members from Butler Area High School placed flags on the graves of veterans buried at Butler County Memorial Park. The Veterans Bureau in Butler County gives flags to volunteers to place in cemeteries throughout the county.
Within two hours after the students started on Thursday, about 500 flags fluttered beside the graves of veterans, some of whom served as far back as World War I.
“I think it's nice that we recognize what veterans have done for this country, even people who have been dead a long time. The flags look good. I just love seeing them all waving,” King said.
“It's a lot of work,” said Paul Simms, the cemetery's manager. The cemetery has 9,000 graves, 1,500 of which belong to veterans. “We have a map that includes the location of where every veteran is buried. The map is always changing, since new people are buried every week.”
On Sunday the American Legion Post 778 in Lyndora is conducting a private reading of the names of county veterans who died within the past year.
Several hundred people typically attend the invitation-only service, said John Cyprian, director of veteran services for Butler County, which organizes the holiday's events.
Norm Reddick, 87, who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946, began the custom. He started to organize the celebration just after World War ll.
“We recognize all the deceased. We start by reading all of their names. There are a lot of them this year,” said Reddick, 87, now living in Orlando, Fla.
Memorial Day parades are planned Monday in Butler and Saxonburg, each beginning at 10:30 a.m. and proceeding down Main Street in the communities.
The Butler parade will end at North Cemetery, where volunteers put flags next to the graves of veterans.
On Monday, a ceremony will be held at VA Butler Healthcare for hospitalized veterans.
An estimated 14,000 veterans live in Butler County, according to the veterans bureau, and 389 county veterans died within the 12-month period ending May 1.
Of those, 176 served during World War II. Four served in World War II and the Korean War; another four served in Korea and Vietnam. Sixty-eight served in Vietnam, and one veteran who died last year served in both Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf War.
Twenty-five of the Butler County veterans who died in that period served during peacetime.
Elsewhere in Butler County, VFW Post No. 879 will conduct a Memorial Day ceremony on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Cranberry's North Boundary Park.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944.